What a wonderful day for a walk! The heat wave is gone, replaced with mid-70s temperatures, cool breezes, and cloudy skies. The promise of imminent rain meant that the Naugatuck State Forest was almost empty of people this morning, but the wildlife was abundant and active -- just the way I like my woods.
I saw a bunch of really cool beetles out there today, of such widely varying sizes and shapes. Take this net-winged beetle (genus Calopteron), for instance:
You'd hardly know it's a beetle, lacking a characteristic hard beetle-y "shell", but beetle it is. Shortly after I found this colorful fellow, it lifted up those soft elytra (the name for the protective forewings that are usually hard in beetles) and flew away.
And speaking of colorful, check out this guy:
I thought for sure any creature that looks like this would have "rainbow" somewhere in its name, but it turns out to be a Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus). This name's also appropriate, though, since this beetle and its larvae eat only plants of the dogbane family -- and look, this one's even on a leaf from the right kind of plant.
These first two beetles were moderately sized, not big but certainly not tiny. This next creature, by contrast, was something of a monster, about an inch and a half long (not including legs and antennae):
Now that's a beetle! This is a Broad-necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis), and they're apparently quite common (according to the person on BugGuide.net who ID-ed it for me), although I've certainly never seen one before.
So the bugs were awesome, but I was also surprised at the number of birds I saw this morning. They were much more active (and visible) today than I've seen in weeks -- perhaps, like me, they were expending some built-up energy after laying low in the heat for the past few days. Because it was so cloudy, it wasn't a very good day for seeing/identifying new birds, but with the birds so bold and energized, it was a great day to get close to some old friends.
This Black-capped Chickadee was perfectly happy to forage for delicious bugs while I stood nearby:
While the chickadee was going after the bugs that crawl, this Eastern Phoebe was doing the flycatcher thing, snatching insects right out of the air. It posed nicely for a little while in between assaults so I could get a good look at it:
This phoebe looks like it's been working hard. Hey, I think you've got some cobwebs on your face (and tail).
New wildflowers abounded, of course. I'm pretty sure this beauty is a Thin-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus), and several of these plants were blooming along the path:
Just as brightly yellow, but as tiny as the sunflower was tall, a small patch of this Woodland Agrimony (Agrimonia striata) lit up the forest floor:
Here's another non-native thistle. This is Canada Thistle, invasive and banned in Connecticut (although, again, I can't help thinking its tufted flowers are quite pretty):
And here are the tiny flowers from that strange parasitic plant, dodder, that I noticed for the first time last week:
With bunches of these flowers clinging to the neon stems, most of the little white buds still closed, I think this plant looks positively festive:
Here are a few final sights from today's walk -- I don't know if I've ever seen an arrangement of fungi more interesting in their pattern and symmetry than this:
And whoever was living in this hole must've decided to clean house at some point. Or is there another reason for all this soft fiber spilling from the hole?
Some mystery, lots of beauty, pleasant weather, and awesome creatures. I'd call that a good day!